This week I had the pleasure of being a guest on NPR's Airtalk program, on the subject of Robert Zemeckis' 1989 film Back to the Future Part II and its predictions for the year 2015.
It was an entertaining conversation, and as usual I played the role of down-to-earth technologist that had to point out that many of the "predictions" used in the film were developed primarily as comedic gags, and weren't really meant to be an accurate portrayal of what life might be like in the year 2015.
There are a few things in the film that echo some of today's concerns about technology -- such as the surveillance state, drones and data privacy -- but overall the 2015 that Marty McFly and Doc Brown visit seems inspiring and pleasant, albeit dated and anachronistic, given the huge miss on the Internet and mobile devices in that film.
Still, I appreciate the movie because it is one of the few Science Fiction films released in the last 30 years that doesn't have the future portrayed as purely dystopian or truly post-apocalyptic.
How many variations on the same theme in The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, The Giver or Divergent must we be forced to sit through? Or truly awful end of the world stuff like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Oblivion, Snowpiercer or even Interstellar?
I could go on with the list of movies but then I'd probably go over my word allotment.
Certainly it could be argued that dystopia has always been Sci-Fi's bread and butter. One only needs to go back to the source material of Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, H.G. Wells and in more modern times, Philip K. Dick to see where it all stems from.
And while I enjoy their works immensely, it is from those writers and the films and television for which their writings are adapted that fear of technological advancement is often derived.
In enterprise IT, in the year 2015, we are blessed and also cursed with disruptive technology that we must not just look at with caution, but we must also exploit accordingly as business realities dictate.
In the process we need to abandon our fear of change just because doing something differently or in the process of learning to do so we might make some mistakes along the way.
No other disruptive technology paradigm has brought such divisiveness to our field in the last two years than that of cloud computing, which brings with it the potential for huge cost savings in capital and operational expenditure as well as in being able to make IT run at the pace of the business.
I've written a number of pieces about why various aspects of cloud computing frightens rank and file technology practitioners and end users. Much of it is written in a sarcastic and fatalistic tone because I am convinced that a movement to cloud computing as the predominant information technology paradigm is inevitable, whether it happens in 2015 or 2020.
Or in Huxleyan terms, the Alphas and Betas who understand and live cloud will have far more advantages than the Gammas and Deltas that are unable to comprehend it or willfully resist change.
So yes, there will be disruption in terms of what IT skills and career paths are affected by the shift to cloud computing. Not everyone is going to come out of it unscathed. But there is a bright side.
As I have alluded to in other articles, public cloud is not necessarily an all or nothing proposition. Some organizations and industries, depending on their workloads and regulatory requirements, may still need to keep a substantial amount if not all of their systems and data in-house, running in their own privately-owned datacenters or in leased space from an outsourcer.
This does not preclude them, however, from taking advantage of technology that has been pioneered and mostly exploited in the public cloud. They can do it with private clouds and leverage the public cloud as needed with targeted workloads that can make best use of it, in hybrid scenarios.
The DNA that makes up a public cloud, such as self-service portals, orchestration & automation, application templating, platform as a service, containerization, software-defined networking and software-defined storage are all cost-saving cloud-oriented technologies that are equally applicable to on-premises systems as much as it is for public cloud systems.
And when there is reduction in CAPEX and OPEX, especially when done strictly on-premises, this is still a good thing for practitioners. It means there is more capital left over to keep qualified ones around, even if IT spending has to endure further cuts.
2015 will be a Brave New World for Information Technology. And I look forward to working with the people in it. Talk Back and Let Me Know.